Higher education

Second Iowa State finalist Pamela Whitten brings first female in three searches

Whitten is vice president and provost at University of Georgia Athens

Pamela Whitten, finalist for president of Iowa State University
Pamela Whitten, finalist for president of Iowa State University

The second of four finalists who could replace former Iowa State University President Steven Leath is Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Although Whitten now is in the South, much of her academic career was in the Midwest — at the University of Kansas from 1993 to 1998 and at Michigan State University from 1998 to 2014.

She is the first female finalist to emerge as the Board of Regents searched, starting in 2015, for presidents to lead its universities.

In the searches to replace former University of Iowa President Sally Mason in 2015 and former University of Northern Iowa President Bill Ruud in 2016, all the finalists were white men.

ISU’s first presidential finalist, who visited campus Monday, is Sonny Ramaswamy, an Indian American agricultural scientist serving a six-year term that began in 2012 at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ramaswamy and Whitten are two of four finalists a 21-member search committee is bringing to campus this week to meet with faculty, staff, students and administrators and also participate in public forums. The remaining two finalist have not yet been publicly named.

Whitten got her bachelor’s degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, her master’s in organizational communication from the University of Kentucky and her doctorate in communication studies from the University of Kansas.


Whitten has an academic administrative background typical of traditional university presidential finalists. That experience started in the 2000s at Michigan State, where she — for example — became assistant dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

When she was appointed vice president and provost at University of Georgia in 2013, her school’s president said she had the background and ability to move academics forward “with a focus on excellence.”

“She is prepared to join me in leading UGA in a collaborative process focused on making the difficult and strong decisions that will assure our continued upward trajectory as a great public research university,” he said at the time, according to a news release.

Whitten is scheduled Tuesday to make her visit to the Ames campus. Her public forum is at 4 p.m. in the Durham Great Hall of the ISU Memorial Union.

The regents are set to hold a special meeting Oct. 23 to name a new ISU president to replace Leath, who left to lead Auburn University.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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